My first encounter with the artist, Arianna Carossa, came in the spring of this year (April, 2014) where she had an installation at the bathroom of Rooster Gallery. I conducted that interview insisting that we do it in the bathroom where her work is a bulwark of renegade idealism and wry aesthetics. My next course of action after that entertaining and insightful interview was to see what she can do if given a solo show.
Last December 4th that came to past as Arianna Carossa had her first solo exhibition at Rooster Gallery entitled Gattopardo. Finally, she is out of the bathroom and now in the gallery front room. What did I expect? Nothing but short of unconventional and yet there was something very academic in her latest oeuvre where icons of formalism became the base for an artistic observation and dissertation of eventual failure in the realm of decadence.
“For things to remain the same, everything must change.”
(Tommaso di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo)
The reverse rhetoric for the quote mentioned above would be the version of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “The more things change, the more they are the same.” It begs the question, is there the inverse relationship of change versus sameness? Does Carossa successfully emulate the proposal or illustration of the idea?
Take the first piece that you encounter when you walk into the gallery as it begs your full undivided attention. At first glance it looks like a turn of the century pistol but it is actually copper pipe fittings. In plumbing history, copper pipes denoted the best in the standard as lasting for 20-25 years and resistant to corrosion. Since 1963, over 5.3 million miles of copper plumbing tube has been installed in over 80 percent of U.S. buildings. But failure can occur in as little as two years due to the change in water chemistry. Is this Carossa’s “Fountain” homage to Marcel Duchamp? Then the pistol resemblance is fitting indeed as the once impervious material is actually shooting itself on the foot due to the change in water chemistry.
Also on the floor were the cracked remnants of a Corinthian cornice and frieze, which symbolized the classical elegance of Roman architecture detail that was quite decadent in its time. Now the ultimate experience of seeing the faded glories of such remnants are the ruins you visit in the Forum or the Coliseum. The mighty Empire failed because it tried to radically change but it kept the same drama of treachery and corruption. Anyone remember the betrayal of Julius Caesar? Let’s just say the ending is one bloody spectacle worthy of an audience at the Coliseum.
The paintings on the wood panels of fruits in abundance were another classical image used copiously by the Renaissance artists. It was very inventive of Carossa to paint them not entirely covering the surface but keeping the natural grain exposed. One can make the distinct comparison between the created beauties versus the natural. But what the most talented of artists can render in paint is no match to the humble yet majestic feature of nature. Mankind always exerts the most effort what nature inherently provides – beauty that is beyond measure.
And finally the most discussed installation and the freshest component in the entire show – the mystery of the pineapple. There was a church bench; a sheet of Plexiglas leaning off center, a circular disk on the floor and the pineapple perched on one side of the bench. What does it all mean? The pineapple became the focus of deciphering the mystery and unlock the meaning of the entire installation. It could be a symbol of fertility where perhaps the church’s stance on birth control is considered archaic. In the South and particularly in South Carolina, the balustrades and columns of homes feature a pineapple. This was the symbol of ultimate hospitality when the fruit is offered to guests of honor since it was rare and quite expensive. Again, the air of decadence and a bygone era of a lifestyle. I finally asked the meaning of this to the artist and got this response. The decision to put the pineapple was not based on background rhetoric or symbolism. In the realization of the construction of the installation that something was missing. The artist perused the markets of Chinatown and came back with a pineapple to place in that sweet spot. It was her gut feeling to place that item there and it could have worked with a kiwi. However, the pineapple was perfection. An organic item to an otherwise tired and tested composition. So screw the rhetoric and take in the irreverence for its brilliance in purely felt aesthetics.
Overall, Carossa treated the formal accoutrements of decadence in her signature sardonic wit, insouciance, intelligent postulation, and informal treatment. I remembered her “Water” project in the bathroom of Rooster gallery last spring where the towels and bath mats were rendered useless once she carved the perfect circles in them. The object’s original use became obsolete once made into her art. She most certainly changed the tenets of what these formal items of decadence meant. We’ve just come back from where we began and I couldn’t be more amused and delighted. For her to change the air of formalism she executed the same approach in creating her latest art.
Arianna Carossa: Gattopardo / On View: Dec. 4, 2014 – Jan. 17, 2015
Gallery Hours: Wed – Sun (12 to 7 pm) / Mon & Tue by appointment
Rooster Gallery. 190 Orchard Street. NYC, NY 10002
Art Review By: Oscar A. Laluyan
Photography by: Olya Turcihin